I was VERY excited to read this book! Like I mentioned in my review of The Fall (the prequel to Riding Tall) I had never read Kate Sherwood’s work before that book. After reading about Mack, Joe and his brood, I fell in love with her characters. Mack and Joe were so dear, in such need of one and another and, yet so lacking in communication abilities, it’s very hard not to root for them! We meet these boys again some months since they have begun their relationship. Joe has taken in the two neighbor girls whose parents died in a fire recently. He feels responsible for not stepping in earlier and letting things get so bad in that home, he feels responsible for not getting them out of the fire faster, he feels responsible for not being able to give Mack more time…He feels responsible for pretty much anything that is happening anywhere. Joe is a caretaker, if anything goes wrong, he puts the blame on himself. It’s noble and it’s something to respect, but being the partner of someone who has to be everything to everyone isn’t easy. Mack is so in love with Joe, and Joe with Mack. They are trying to make a go of things but, it’s just hard. Once Joe decides that he will take in the third little girl affected by the fire who has suffered brain damage and needs constant care without consulting anyone…Things get a little too real.
These two men gave me a run for my money with the angst, I needed that glass of wine BAD by the time they really got into things. I needed something delicious and awesome to keep up with what Joe and Mack were dishing out. My pick is an incredibly delicious and sturdy Côtes du Rhône wine from the Chapelle St. Arnoux winery. This wine is so good, I can’t even focus on what I like best. It is smooth as can be, tasty, well rounded and just wonderful to sip. It’s about $11 a bottle which is pretty darn good for what you get.
Now back to my delightfully angsty duo…So yeah things are STRESSFUL. Mack is going back to Toronto for modelling gigs. He feels like he needs to be making money on his own, he doesn’t want to be Joe’s kept man. He also feels like he gets in the way at the ranch. Joe is there trying to do a million things at once, but won’t ask for help. He won’t incovenience Mack with any duties…So Mack insead of feeling like a partner, like the person giving Joe the respite he neeeds, he feels like one more burden on the man he loves…And Joe, bless his heart. The man is THICK as a lamp post, and NOT IN THE FUN WAY! He just cannot give in, and ask for help. He is guilty all the time. It seems like nothing that happens could ever not be his fault. He is terrified of scaring Mack off by letting him take on any the many duties in their household…It’s a hot mess.
The thing I liked about this book is that things were REAL. Just because Mack and Joe were madly in love (which they were!!) didn’t mean they would magically become well adjusted people with no issues or hang ups…They wanted each other, but they were who they were. Joe was stuck in his role of martyr, of taking on too much. Mack wanted to be better and more mature, but he still had his insecurities. His entire adulthood he’d been in a career where everything pretty much depended on how he looked, his emotionally manipulative ex had not helped matters. He had doubts on whether Joe could really see him as a PARTNER. Joe in his head was resistant to letting Mack do anything in the house, with the fear that he would get fed up with the doldrums of country life and run off to the city…Oh these two needed so serious communications counselling and a kick in the butt!!!
I was wringing my hands like crazy. But it worked out. It was a rough go, and Mack had to put his big girl pants on in order to save his relationship. Joe had to get his large head out of his ass, and accept that he couldn’t actually do EVERYTHING on his own. They got it done though, and they did it with the help of their family. There was drama to be sure, but they ended in a good place.
Again a very pleasant read from Ms. Sherwood, enough sexy to keep things exciting, a lot of drama to keeps things interesting, heroes who were endearing even at their most infuriating, and a band of secondary characters (human, canine and equine!) who made the novel that much more interesting.
Not sure if we will get more from Mack and Joe, but I am glad I got to visit with them again so soon!
Riding Tall is available here.
Hope you enjoy the book and the wine. I promise they are both worth your time.
Cheers and Happy Reading!